Showing posts with label sci-fi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sci-fi. Show all posts

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What WAS going on in the X-Files Intro?

It always seemed like the intro segment to The X-Files was put together in the two days before the first show aired and someone in Chris Carter's office suddenly remembered "oh no.  We forgot to get an intro!" and asked some stoner interns to put something together, and, indeed they did.

What's more odd is that, even after the show took off and had a budget, no one ever thought to replace the opening sequence with something un-terrible and that did not suggest "eh, we're gonna get canceled, anyway, so don't kill yourself working on this."

To remind yourself of how that intro went, click here.  

These are out of order, because I don't care, but help me out...  Of all the mysteries of X-Files, the imagery of the intro leaves the biggest question marks of all.  Let's solve some outstanding X-Files.  Y'all tell me exactly what is going on in one or more of these images from the X-Files opening.


X-File 1:  The Stretchy Face Guy


Clearly tortured mentally and physically, each week this guy's face was being distorted by the finest in 1990's era digital manipulation software for an underpowered desktop PC.  But what was he experiencing?  Was this a literal event or how we were feeling as an audience with our minds totally blown by UFOs?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Truth Is Out There (again, apparently)


In Fall of 1993, I was a freshman at UT Austin when Fox TV debuted two sci-fi shows, The X-Files and The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. starring Bruce Campbell and Julius Carry.  The shows premiered in the no-man's land of Friday evening, and I assumed they were as doomed as, oh, say, Firefly would be when it debuted in the same timeslot a decade later.



Before going out or doing whatever we were going to do that night, I'd usually have on the shows, because this was the era just after the release of Army of Darkness and we were all big Bruce Campbell fans, plus I had grown to genuinely like the sci-fi oater in its short run.  X-Files I wanted to like, because - and I don't think i'm going to blow anyone's mind with this revelation - I was way into the red-headed skeptical doctor on the show.*

such ribald taste we all had in the mid-90's


But, man, Friday night in an era where you kind of had to make an appointment with yourself to watch a show meant I was a sporadic fan at best.  Let's just say my priorities during the era did not top out with "stay home, watch TV".

Saturday, March 7, 2015

SF Watch: Explorers (1985)

As a kid I remember not exactly loving this movie.  At the time, I thought it was kind of boring and anti-climactic.  As of last night I kind of think that, like the ship the boys fly in during the movie, it's also a mess assembled out of used garbage piloted by people who have no idea what they're doing.

For example - when you title your movie Explorers (1985), you may want to try including the concept of "exploration" not getting hi-jacked briefly before coming right back home.



I don't mean to be so harsh, but, man...  Back in the 1980's, an era that brought us E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, The Goonies, Monster Squad and other movies about adolescents getting caught up in a magical world of imagination and adventure and maybe learning something about empathy and themselves along the way, this movie ended up as a bit of a renter after not really doing great at the box office.  And it seemed like it should have been great.  Kids doing it for themselves.  Computers.  Space travel.  Aliens!

It feels like this movie kind of knew what the pieces were that went into these coming-of-age movies, a genre enough unto itself that the 2011 JJ Abrams movie Super 8 sought to recreate the feel.  The films required a backdrop of kids not doing great at home - divorced parents, dead parents, grieving or troubled parents.  But the parents were present, if a bit distracted.  The 80's gave us kid rooms that were messy that contained things real kids' rooms of the era might contain like mangled comics, toys, posters strewn around.  Kids weren't particularly nice to each other, even as friends.  The lead would maybe have a crush on some nice girl who wore lots of purple or pink.  And, these were never the cool kids.  They were average, or maybe a little nerdy.

Sure enough, Explorers features 3 outsider kids - the romantic sci-fi nerd (Ethan Hawke), the science-minded nerd who other kids just want to beat the crap out of (River Phoenix in dad-glasses), and the Junior John Bender (the guy you never heard from again but who is actually better than Ethan Hawke in this movie) team up to float around in a pile of garbage inside a space marble and then....

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Trek Watch: Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home

As we say good-bye to Leonard Nimoy, I wanted to give one of the Star Trek movies a whirl.  And Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home seemed a good choice.  It's lighter, was directed by Nimoy, and has a strong character thread for Spock.

just a couple of bros, trading colorful metaphors

I'm actually a fan of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, not the least because it truly felt like an episode of the original show taken to its logical extreme - exploration leading to realization of some greater truth about humanity, etc... And the direction by Robert Wise is impeccable.  I'm also a fan of Star Treks II and III, both great action movies, expanding on the ideas from the TV series, both the commentary of The Star Seeds and the pioneering science you'd see Kirk and Co coming upon from planet to planet, episode to episode.

Star Trek IV, of course, picks up the threads of II and III and completes a trilogy of related movies, sending the crew of the Enterprise home to face court-martial for the events of the prior two movies.  Spock has returned to life in the events of III, and keeps up a stoic as he finds his footing.  And, of course, the world will end if we don't travel back into the past, enjoy a Michelob and grab some humpback whales.  Returning to the roots of Trek, Star Trek IV sets up a conflict that can't be resolved with phasers or photon torpedoes, setting up what a wacky adventure for our faithful crew in the 1980's.

Of course, y'all don't need a plot synopsis of Star Trek IV.

And, of course, it's not like I haven't written about the movie before.

This movie marked another evolution in Spock's character - the movie where he fully accepts his human nature and the inherent illogic of humanity as part of his own nature.  His mother's reminder that his friends have substituted the "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one" was ignored to save him, he in turn applies to the comatose Chekov.  And he embraces the human notion of "guessing" rather than working from facts and numbers.

It's not the A Plot of the movie, but it's interesting to see what must have been on the minds of Nimoy and Harve Bennett, who acted as story developers but also as Director and Producer, respectively (for you kids who weren't around yet, saving the whales was kind of a big thing back in the '80's).






Monday, February 23, 2015

Sci-Fi Watch: 2010 (1984)

While you chumps were all watching The Oscars, I managed to extend my Oscar-free streak to something like my 15th year* by watching the extraordinarily unnecessary follow-up to Stanley Kubrick's sci-fi opus, 2001: a Space Odyssey, the mostly ignored and relegated to condescension and jeers, 1984's 2010.



I vividly remember seeing the movie with The Admiral, who must have realized ten minutes into the movie I'd never seen 2001, because we hadn't even made it to the car in the parking lot before he kind of apologized.  But I was good.  I'd basically followed the movie, was pleased to see Roy Scheider in something, it contained spaceships and computers and danger and I felt like I was watching a movie geared at grown-ups and what was happening had not totally escaped me.  Honestly, it probably helped me better understand 2001 a few years later when I did watch it on VHS.

But watching the two movies on the same day, it's impossible not to note the tonal, narrative and other differences, and to see why Kubrick's movie - polarizing as it might be - is at least the one people remember and talk about.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sci-Fi Sunday: Forbidden Planet and 2001: A Space Odyssey

It's Sci-Fi movie day on Turner Classic Movies, and I'm doing some encoding of home videos and watching of movies on cable.

I first saw Forbidden Planet during the Paramount Summer Film Series, probably around 97' or 98'.  With my buddy Matt, come to think of it.

None of this ever really happens in the movie, but, whatevs...

They tell me the movie is a sci-fi version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, but I have no idea.  I've never seen or read it.  But I have seen Forbidden Planet about seven or eight times, and every time, I like it better.  Sure, it stars Leslie Nielsen of Naked Gun fame in a dramatic role, which is weird, but it's such a great bit of its time and a snapshot of exploration sci-fi that is a now-kind-of-dead genre (and if you can't see the direct impact on Star Trek, you aren't paying attention).

The visual and audio FX in this movie make it an amazing experience, with the debut of Robbie the Robot, Krell architecture, amazing sets, spaceships, matte backgrounds that are truly massive and alien.  And even the hand-drawn animation of the Id Monster holds up amazingly well, in its way.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

SW Watches: Predator (1987)

I love the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, Predator, with the kind of unironic enthusiasm you never really recapture after the age of 13, when we rented this flick during the golden era of action movies with a hard R-rating.  And this is not a movie that earned its hard R from gratuitous nudity of the era (in fact, nary a boob is seen that isn't an oiled pectoral muscle).  It's just straight up Reagan-era ultraviolence from Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, Shane Black, Bill Duke and more.

And, of course, The Predator, one of the groundbreaking action movie concepts that no one has still really improved upon almost 30 years later.

I watched the movie for three reasons:
  • I was recently gifted a Predator-themed shirt by CanadianSimon, and so I wanted to watch the movie in his honor
  • Last summer I heard rumors that screen-writer/ actor Shane Black (who is in this movie) would be rebooting the franchise - and I'm kind of looking forward to seeing what he does.  I wouldn't trust too many other folks to take this on, but Shane Black is the right person for the job
  • I was more than half-way into a bottle of Malbec and watching Predator suddenly seemed absolutely necessary*


Saturday, January 10, 2015

SW Watches: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimenstion

We have a fairly recently instated rule at League HQ that Friday movies must be "fun".  It's the end of the work week for me, and Jamie's usually worn out by this point - so it's the kind of night when we'll put on something with more than two Amigos, but fewer than four.

But we've also run through the pile of lightweight comedies of late, and I dusted off a DVD I'd purchased probably ten years ago and put it in, and when the DVD menu came up, I learned:  Jamie had never seen The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension.  Or, as most folks call it, Buckaroo Banzai.  

yes, all of these people are in this movie, and more...
I first saw the movie during its theatrical run.  The Admiral, being no dummy, drove us all the way across town to the one cinema showing the film.  As I recall, Steanso and I loved the thing, totally and with no hint of irony.  I had no idea it was a throwback to the Doc Savage concept of the super-human leader with his trusty band of do-gooders.  I just knew it had everything I wanted in a movie at the time.  A brilliant neurosurgeon/ particle physicist/ martial artist/ rock star hero (and what right thinking kid didn't want to be that in the mid-80's?).  Aliens.  Other Dimensions.  Space Ships.  Ellen Barkin.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Signal Watches (and spoils) - Star Trek: Into Darkness (the title that made no sense)

Y'all know I love my Captain Kirk, Uhura and McCoy.  I have and wear a shirt with the image of Leonard Nimoy that reads "Spock is my homeboy".  My clock at work bears the image of the Enterprise.  I was ridiculed in 4th grade Reading class for wanting to be on Enterprise away teams when I grew up.  By the teacher.

I understand that one must reboot and refresh a franchise from time to time.  For goodness sake, I'm a Superman fan.  The trademarked character is more about how he's been interpreted in various incarnations than he is about any particular story.

I just don't think JJ Abrams is much of a writer or director.  And its possible Chris Pine isn't much of an actor.



SPOILERS BELOW

What is true is that by the time Star Trek: Enterprise aired, the Star Trek franchise had become so insular and inward looking that it was basically extended fan service.  I don't even know if the show was good or not, as I found myself just... not caring that it was on as I saw it jumping back through the hoops I'd found all-too-familiar after multi-year runs of ST: TNG, DS9 and Voyager (a show I wanted to like, but found everyone but Janeway kind of perplexingly flat.  At least she got to make command decisions and wrestle with saving her crew).

Friday, April 5, 2013

Oh, Did You Just Figure Out That Maybe Disney Buying Star Wars Means Everything You Liked About Star Wars is Going to Getting Demolished?

Shoemaker sent me this article from i09.  It's basically about how, the afterglow of Disney's purchase of Star Wars and the sudden lay-offs, etc... start to settle in, someone realized that Disney probably doesn't give two Jawa farts about the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

As I said in my email response to Shoemaker: no kidding

once again, your avatar for what will happen to everything you once loved

Even when the first Expanded Universe stuff hit the shelf when I was in high school, I didn't read it.  I guess by the time those books arrived, I was pretty well aware that studio executives weren't going to care that some sci-fi authors wanted to write Star Wars books when it came time to make new movies, and those studio execs were going to include George Lucas and his associates.  When movies that moved past the conclusion of Return of the Jedi did happen, they'd be so much bigger than a series of fantasy books, that the books would just sort of disappear into the ether as non-canonical, leaving a herd of nerds wondering how to reconcile the irreconcilable, narratively speaking, in their minds.

Of course, for two decades we had Uncle George backing up the books - which I doubted he ever read, but he knew that without his stamp, those books wouldn't be taken seriously nor purchased by Star Wars fans.  And that meant less dough, so best to just approve them and worry on it later.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Your Daily Dose of Good Cheer (Bonus Edition): Sean Young in Blade Runner



Somehow I never pre-set this column to go off yesterday.  I simply had no post for 03/30.  Kind of weird.

Anyway, let's give Sean Young credit where it's due.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I am in the awkward position of admitting I liked the 2012 film "Battleship"

So, Jamie's dad had more than once recommended me the 2012 film, Battleship, which he'd seen in the theater.  I had heard some atrocious things online, but Dick was the only person I knew who had actually seen the movie.

A good, brainless movie can really pass the time on the elliptical, so I threw on Battleship, directed by the notable director and producer Peter Berg of Friday Night Lights fame, and starring Taylor Kitsch of FNL fame as well.

If you have high hopes for a groundbreaking film based on a board game, which throws up a title screen that this is a Hasbro movie, and which stunt casts Rihanna, well, you may come away disappointed.

I am not averse to, and am actually a fan of, what my brother calls "hardware porn".  Movies that feature lots of military vehicles, space ships, cannons, what have you...  and in this vein, I am quite excited for Pacific Rim.  It's worth noting that Battleship is probably intended for middle school boys, from the chaste romantic story to the color-by-numbers scrappy-rebel-learns-honor-in-the-military plot.  And, also, the complete fetishization of naval combat against alien aggressors.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Movies 2012 - The Final Commentary

As mentioned before, I watched and blogged movies 147 times, sort of.  Anyway, the point is, I watched John Carter 3 times, and never regretted it.  Process everything in the rest of this post* with that in mind.

So, the actual experience of deciding to blog every movie for a year was sort of in line with other "for a year I shall..." plans I've had.  Like the year I went vegetarian, just to be difficult. Yes, I did this.

Honestly, I think I was probably way down on number of movies viewed this past year.  I don't know how many movies people normally watch, but I know that for the first time in 5 years, my attendance at the Alamo and Paramount this summer was significantly lower than usual.

All that also took a financial toll in past years, and I've been cutting back on Alamo visits to try to better maintain our finances.  I'm guessing I still hit the movies more than the average bear, but it did feel like a down year for being at the theater, but maybe I made up for that in Cable viewership and watching home video.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Killer School Girls From Outer Space (2011)

So, life is funny how it surprised you sometimes.

Not that long ago I was sitting in my office at work making digital libraries happen when a guy from my building who I talk to now and again, mostly "howdy" and "hello" as we pass, asked me about some posters from Mondo I have hanging up in my office.

"You like sci-fi?"
"Yeah!  It's kind of my thing.  Not so much the modern stuff, but I kind of dig mid-century stuff and maybe up to the 80's the best."
"Cool!"
And we parted ways.
A few days later Bill appeared in my doorway with a DVD in his hand.
"A while back, my son and I made this movie."
My stomach dropped.  I like a good Birdemic trainwreck, but I like it from a casual distance.  I do not like to have to nod and smile and say "that was super!" when it was not super at all.  Then I looked down at the cover.


"...is that Ron Jeremy?"
Bill nodded.  "Yeah, we hired him for a day.  All green screen.  He was really nice."
"This is...  like, everything awesome about movies."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Signal Reads: Solaris (1961)

There is nothing like a beloved Polish sci-fi novel written in 1961 to make you feel like a complete idiot.

That was a better book than I was a listener.

I once saw the Russian film of Solaris circa 1994, but I'll be honest.  I'd had a lot to drink, and I don't remember anything about it at all, but when people would ask, I'd say:  Yeah, I've seen Solaris.  It wasn't exactly a lie, but it wasn't exactly true that I remembered seeing Solaris.  It's like saying you've been to San Diego, but you've only been to the airport.


So, on Jason's fiance's dad's suggestion, (I could have actually sat down and read the book, but that isn't going to happen, so) I purchased and listened to the audiobook of Solaris by Stanislaw Lem.  It's no lie that Greg is a much smarter man than myself (and you, too.  Seriously, meet Greg some time), and while I am sure Greg got more out of it than me, the book didn't disappoint.

It was also the rare book that I finished with the absolute certainty that I was going to read it again, because while I had grasped much of the book, I also knew that, thanks to the linear format of the audiobook, what I would have done to re-read certain parts, to flip back and forth in the book to piece it together when new information presented itself - I was just caught up in the flow of the story being told as it unspooled on my iPod.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lazy Post - Intros of swiftly canceled 80's Sci-Fi shows

Here's the explanation/ origin story for TV's Automan.



When you think about all the work WB put into making Green Lantern's costume work in the movie, it all seems sort of silly. This looks just as good, really.

Here's the intro to a weekly episode.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Looper (2012)

Like all non-comedies about time travel, this movie becomes primarily about the mechanics of the plot devices and which corner our characters will get painted into to make the plot make any sense.

Like all time travel movies, this one basically falls apart if you think too hard about the mechanics of what they're saying and doing - and once the movie concludes and you have time to think on it - no, it won't make sense, but that doesn't mean I didn't like the movie.  Also, no, I haven't seen Primer (I expect the comment section to get filled with Nag Troll Comments), but I basically expect for time travel movies to not really work as well as one might hope.  In fact, the last one I thought did work pretty well was 12 Monkeys, which also sent Bruce Willis cartwheeling through time and space.



So what did I like?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sci-Fi Watch: The Time Machine (1960)

Credit to Jason, he alerted me to the showing of the The Time Machine (1960) as part of The Alamo's Kids Club series of movies.  It's safe to say I have never sat down and watched this movie end-to-end.  What I did not know was that I had seen probably 90% of this movie in bits and pieces over the years.

Seen as a whole, it's an absolutely fantastic bit of cinema, and earns its place among the pantheon of pre-Star Wars classics, with one foot in the 19th Century HG Wells-penned source material and another in the atomic-age sci-fi boom, but landing squarely with a relentlessly tough view of humanity in something that looks like a family adventure film.  I'd also argue that, as a huge Planet of the Apes fan, I can definitely see parallels in what Serling was doing with his adaptation of the French novel of Planet of the Apes in order to tell his own Time Machine-line story.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Frankenstein Island (1981 - but you'd never know it from looking at the movie)

I don't really know where to start.

Ok.

To explain, we watched the VOD version of this movie from RiffTrax with Doug, and he was right - the new VOD stuff RiffTrax is doing is every bit as good as the better MST3K stuff.

While the RiffTrax guys strayed from the world of punching-bag-bad movies and have stepped up to big budget Hollywood stuff in this format (and absolutely killed with it), it's still fun to see the old tools come out and see these guys at work.

So...  Frankenstein Island (1981).  

Oh, John Carradine, even your unused b-roll deserved better...

There are many things one could say about this movie, and among those things is the idea I find inescapable that director Jerry Warren, who had spent the mid-50's through the mid-60's creating the exact sort of movie that wound up on MST3K in the first place, was sitting around with his pals and said "Hey, let's do one more!  It'll be great.  Let's make a movie!" and this is what happened.  And so, in a way, I really hope those guys had fun making the movie, because it makes no sense and it's both mind-boggling and boring.